Pace clinches Pottsgrove’s victory over Wissahickon

LOWER POTTSGROVE >> It was a memorable way to christen a new gymnasium.

Dramatic? Yes. Nerve-wracking? Very much so. But memorable nonetheless.

Pottsgrove got its 2015-16 season started Wednesday by hosting Wissahickon in the school’s brand-spanking new Tri-County Area Federal Credit Union gym. The Falcons did so in fine fashion, outlasting the Trojans for a 38-30 victory.

Christian Pace provided the match-clincher with an overtime 5-3 victory in the 160-pound finale. The Pottsgrove senior came back in his bout with Robert Gailor to force a 3-3 tie in regulation, then got a takedown in the overtime frame to stem Wissahickon’s rebound from a 35-6 deficit nine weights in, to a 35-30 score.

“I love the excitement of close matches,” Pace said afterward. “But I don’t want a lot of them.”

Pottsgrove's Christian Pace clinched the Falcons' victory over Wissahickon Wesnesday.  (Jeff Stover - The Mercury)
Pottsgrove’s Christian Pace clinched the Falcons’ victory over Wissahickon Wesnesday. (Jeff Stover – The Mercury)

While both teams forfeited two weights apiece, along with a double-forfeit at 182, Pottsgrove bolted to a 25-point lead at the start. A Tyler Smith pin at 220, Michael Kilgore’s major verdict at 106 and Chris Quintrell’s decision at 195 merged with forfeits to Ryan Finn (170) and Chris DeFrancesco (285) for the Falcons’ big early spread.

The Trojans stemmed Pottsgrove’s tide starting with Charlie Brammer’s pin at 113. The Falcons answered with Chase Banyai’s major decision of Peter Sweeney at 120 and Kylif Underwood’s second-period pin of Billy Bishop at 126, but Wissahickon had its own answer with pins from Evan Hill (132) and Nick Senderling (138).

The locals’ forfeits of the 145 and 152-pound weights turned what had been a Pottsgrove steamroll into a considerably-closer affair.

“They were looking at who we sent out, and we did the same with them,” Pottsgrove head coach Jeff Madden said. “We made decisions that we felt were best for the team.”

Heading into the final bout, the pressure was more on Wissahickon. It needed a technical fall in the Pace/Gailor pairing to force a tie, or a pin for the win.

The Trojans got neither, thanks to Pace. Though Gailor went ahead with three second-period points, Pace followed a third-period release with a takedown that sent the bout into overtime.

It took Pace just 17 seconds in the OT frame to take Gailor down to the mats. And with that, Pottsgrove’s wrestlers joined their counterparts on the boys and girls basketball teams in winning their first outings in the new gym.

“It was my traditional high-crotch (move),” Pace said. “I’m comfortable doing that, and banging heads with an opponent.”

“Chris has had four or five wins like that in his career,” Madden noted. “He got in a hole but worked out of it.”

Pace, for his part, enjoys the school’s new digs in comparison to the old Falcons Nest. Its arched roof gives a fieldhouse feel, not to mention the considerable increase in seating.

“It’s a lot more open,” he said. “Every time I looked up, it’s like an open room. This experience makes me enjoy wrestling in this gym.”

While DeFrancesco and Smith were introduced together at 220 and 285, it was Smith getting the nod at the lower weight. The junior scored a 2:30 pin on Wissahickon’s Mark Thompson at 220 for a 15-0 Pottsgrove lead that increased with DeFrancesco getting the forfeit at 285 and Kilgore rolling up a 12-4 major on Jaylen Pacheco at 106.

“We’re still battling through our lineup,” Madden said, “and we figure to do that all through December. We have people we can move around at the different weights.

“Our lineup is going to be our lineup.”

Pottsgrove’s next action will be Saturday at the Colley Classic, hosted by West Chester East. The Falcons will get their Pioneer Athletic Conference schedule started two weeks later (Dec. 23) by hosting Spring-Ford.

NOTES >> Finn, by virtue of being introduced in the 170-pound opener, gets the distinction of scoring the program’s first win in the new gym. … DeFrancesco also spoke favorably about the new facility. “It’s pretty cool,” he said. “Having more stands is real nice, and it’s a lot bigger. It feels better on the mats.”

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